Newcastle United's future director of football Dan Ashworth gives brilliant insight into the role that will please fans
Newcastle United’s incoming technical director Dan Ashworth has provided a unique insight into his role as part of a football club.
Ashworth, according to Brighton, will take “a similar role at another Premier League club” following a period of gardening leave.
Newcastle, seeking to appoint a new director of football, were reportedly given permission to speak to Ashworth late last year.
The appointment will be seen as a forward step in the club’s off-field progress following the PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media consortium takeover back in October.
Ashworth, 50, has previously worked in a similar role at West Bromwich Albion and as The Football Association’s director of elite development.
The role has various different responsibilities and indeed titles depending on the approach the club wants to take.
Explaining his role, Ashworth said: “There’s a great deal of confusion about what the role is, partly because of all the different titles.
"Seventeen of the 20 Premier League clubs have this sort of position and they’re called technical director, sporting director, director of operations, director of football, so there’s lots of different versions and with that come different job descriptions.
Speaking on the Training Ground Guru podcast in December 2020, Ashworth added: “During my time at the FA we wrote and delivered a technical director course. Part of that was to invite in all of those incumbents and say: ‘What do you do? What’s in your job description?’
“And it was so different. Some are based on recruitment, some are involved in academies, some have medical and sports science as well, some have training ground operations.
“There’s also a misconception out there that the Technical Director is just about recruitment. For pretty much all of us recruitment is a major part of the role, but it’s only one part of the role.
“I sit in the middle of a wheel and my job is to bring together seven departments, connecting those spokes. And when one of those head of departments leaves, you keep the wheel spinning and find a replacement.”
Ashworth’s aims as a technical director are to ‘look after the medium to long term interests of the football club’ to help it flourish on and off the pitch.
And the 50-year-old has stressed the importance of forming a good relationship with the club’s hierarchy.
“The connection from the boardroom onto the pitch is important,” he continued. “Every club has a CEO and chairman - and budgets, philosophies and principles - and it’s really important we get that across, whether it’s club values or maximising the budget and making sure we’re spending the money in the right way.
“Setting a culture that gets the best out of people and players is the mark of a great leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of Apple or the manager of Brighton, if you can set a culture that means people have the confidence to express themselves, the space to succeed and get the best out of them, that’s the best you can ask.”
An area that has been highlighted as one to improve at Newcastle is the club's academy structure. The Magpies have struggled to have a steady stream of young talent breaking into the first team and establishing themselves in the side.
Sean Longstaff and Paul Dummett are the only academy graduates to have made a Premier League appearance for Newcastle this season.
Fortunately, it’s an area Ashworth has always looked to develop as a technical director.
“Of all my roles, the one I’m most passionate about is opening up pathways for young players,” he admitted.
“The recruitment department might be busy looking at a right-back from overseas when there's one right under their noses in the academy.
“From a Premier League point of view - and I have been guilty of this - because you have so much money in relation to the majority of the other leagues in the world, you can compete for most players in the world.
“Although I spent 12 years coaching and worked my way up to becoming a Pro Licence coach, I have never been a first-team coach or manager though. So do I fully understand the pressures they go through on a Saturday? No, I don’t.
“It’s really easy for me and academy managers to say ‘just chuck the kids in,’ but we’re not the ones who have to answer to the press or the 30,000 fans every Saturday if the results don’t go our way.”
Ashworth is currently on gardening leave after handing in his resignation at Brighton. In order for him to join Newcastle this season, the two clubs will have to agree on a compensation package.
If the club’s cannot come to an agreement, Newcastle may have to wait until the end of the season to make an official appointment.
Regardless of whether he is appointed this season or next, Ashworth could be at Newcastle for years to come.
“This is quite a long-term role,” he added. “It’s not a job you go into for 12 months and out you go again.
“Long term, post [Brighton], I’ve hopefully got a number of years left working in football. I love being a technical director and have been fortunate to have had three wonderful opportunities to do the job.
“My ambition is to stay doing this job for as long as I possibly can, and after that, who knows?”